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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Quote of the Day

"At present it is January with me, both within and without. The outward sun shines and looks pleasant; but his beams are faint, and too feeble to dissolve the frost. So it is in my heart; I have many bright and pleasant beams of truth in my view, but cold predominates in my frost-bound spirit, and they have but little power to warm me. I could tell a stranger something about Jesus that would perhaps astonish him: such a glorious person! Such wonderful love! Such humiliation! Such a death! And then what He is now in Himself, and what He is to His people! What a sun! What a Shield! What a Root! What a Life! What a Friend! My tongue can run upon these subjects sometimes; and could my heart keep pace with it, I should be the happiest fellow in the country. Stupid creature! to know these things so well, and yet be no more affected with them! Indeed I have reason to be upon ill terms with myself! It is strange that pride would ever find anything in my experience to feed upon; but this completes my character for folly, vileness, and inconsistence, that I am not only poor, but proud; and though I am convinced I am a very wretch, and nothing before the Lord, I am prone to go forth among my fellow creatures as though I were wise and good...Pray for me, that the Lord may teach me to serve Him better."
               - John Newton

Monday, October 16, 2017

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Quote of the Day

"A cup was placed into His hand on our account, and His love engaged Him to drink it for us. The wrath which it contained He drank wholly Himself; but He left a little affliction to taste, that we might pledge Him and remember how He loved us, and how much more He endured for us than He will ever call us to endure for Him. Again, how could we without sufferings manifest the nature and truth of gospel grace? What place should we then have for patience, submission, meekness, forbearance, and a readiness to forgive, if we had nothing to try us either from the hand of the Lord or from the hand of men? A Christian without trials would be like a mill without wind or water...Nor would our graces grow, unless they were called out to exercise: the difficulties we meet with not only prove but strengthen the graces of the Spirit."
                    - John Newton

Friday, October 13, 2017

Quote of the Day

"What if God desires to be present and faithful on your detour? What if He chooses to make His presence powerfully available when you are in the space you least desire to be - ...We can protest, 'But I don't want to experience the blessing of God here! I want to experience the blessing of God over there!' ...Our longing, however deep, may not change the reality. Sometimes we don't get to choose. But will we open our hearts to God? Will we open our lives to His work and His blessing while we are not where we want to be?"
            - Jeff Manion in The Land Between

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Shortness of Life

 Life. Is. Too. Short. 
Too short to not live loved. Too short not to say the things that mean the most. Too short to waste chasing after stuff that only leaves us empty and unfulfilled. As I watch hurricanes sweep away lives and property, as I hear about the California fires destroying countless hopes, dreams, and reminds me that the things that matter the most aren't things - they're the intangibles: Faith, family, memories made, people we made them with, risks we were willing to take, hard choices we were courageous enough to act upon...these are the things that build a life and a legacy. Even if there is no longer "stuff" to your name. Life is too short to get caught up in pointless arguments and meaningless goals. These won't be what we wish for in our worst moments - love, laughter, life, belief, and strength will be. And in God (our most unchangeable person in this ever-changing world) we find all of these.
So hug your dear ones tighter. Tell those you love most how much they mean to you. Invest in what is timeless...because in hard moments, that's the investment we will pull from the most.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Check These Guys Out!

If you all haven't heard of this amazing musical group, you need to check them out! I just downloaded their latest album, "Hymns" and have been loving it SO much! This arrangement of theirs is probably my favorite track on there so far. The group is called Anthem Lights, and they've got a lot of great music out there. Take a listen...

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Quote of the Day

"All our supplies come from God; therefore, our dependence should be on Him, and our expectations from Him. Creatures act towards us in kindness and sympathy, according to His direction. The eyes of all creation are upon the Lord, and all the tribes of His creatures are fed by His hand. How much more, then, should His children look to Him, seek from Him, and expect to be supplied by Him! 
Whatever God does, He does wisely and seasonably; and whatever He gives, is in season. When our needs are felt, and our cry is heard, then our supply is certain. It is but for God to open His hand, and all that we need drops from His palm! When God's hand opens, our desires will soon be satisfied. Every temporal mercy, every spiritual gift, and all the supplies needed by our souls lie in the hand of God for us. He loves for us to fix our eyes on Him, to lift up our voice to Him, and seek every blessing from Him."
                 - James Smith

Monday, October 9, 2017

Quote of the Day

"It is unbelief that talks of delays: faith knows that, properly, there can be no such thing. The only reason why the Lord seems to delay what He afterwards grants is, that the best hour is not yet come...Sometimes He will put us to the trial, whether we mean what we say. He takes His course in a way we did not expect; and then, alas! how often does the trial put us to shame! ...We have reason, however, to say, He is good and wise; for He bears with our perverseness, and in the event shows us that if He had listened to our murmurings, and taken the methods we would have prescribed to Him, we should have been ruined indeed, and that He has been all the while doing us good in spite of ourselves."
             - John Newton

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Surely when He crosses our wishes it is always in mercy, and because we short-sighted creatures often know not what to ask, not what would be the consequences if our desires were granted... A view of what is passing within the veil has a marvelous effect to compose our spirits, with regard to the little things that are daily passing here."
               - John Newton

Friday, October 6, 2017

Tracing His Providence

God Moves In A Mysterious Way

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-ending skill,
He treasures up His bright designs 
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His works in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

- William Cowper 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Here is the fundamental difference between the man of faith and the man of unbelief. The unbeliever is 'of the world,' judges everything by worldly standards, views life from the standpoint of time and sense, and weighs everything in the balances of his own carnal making. But the man of faith brings in God, looks at everything from His standpoint, estimates values by spiritual standards, and views life in the light of eternity. Doing this, he receives whatever comes as from the hand of God. Doing this, his heart is calm in the midst of the storm. Doing this, he rejoices in hope of the glory of God."
           - A. W. Pink in The Sovereignty Of God

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Quote of the Day

"...A believer, like a sailor, is not be surprised if the wind changes, but to learn the art of suiting himself to all winds for the time; and though many a poor sailor is shipwrecked, the poor believer shall gain his port. O it is good sailing with an infallible Pilot at the helm, who has the wind and weather at His command."
              - John Newton

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Don't Miss Now!

 In light of yesterday's post, I thought it applicable to share with you the lyrics to a song that I've been thinking about lately. It's a reminder to not let the moments pass you by, to take the time for the things that matter so that you may finish your one life well, having lived fully. 

Don't Miss Now
by Downhere

The life you chose - there's never a list for it
Of cons and pros - you find what you love, and you commit

And you're looking so far down the road so well
That you could forget your crown isn't just somewhere else.

You get bumped and bruised and worse for choosing the road less traveled;
You know the reward is rich if you persist through the darkest battles;
Open your eyes - your prize is right before you somehow:
Whatever you do, just don't miss now.

You're on a bus, don't notice the miles and months fly by;
To the rest of us, you're living the highest kind of life.

I know the price you pay is costlier than it seems,
But it's worth another day - the end justifies the means.

All that you're working for could blind you 
To the treasures all around you,
So don't miss these moments, please - 
The joy before the crown you seek.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Don't Let The Moments Pass You By

 As many of you will notice, I haven't posted many of my own thoughts here recently. The quotes I have put up have honestly reflected much of how I've been feeling as of late. At times, others' words must become your own when your own words fail you. 
 It's hard to articulate the jumble of emotions I've been dealing with for awhile now... How do you reconcile such varying feelings as joy and sorrow intermingle through this life? Over the last several months, I've dealt with friends battling cancer, someone I knew committing suicide, news of a childhood friend's untimely death due to "poor choices," a friend's death from cancer, friends going off the rails due to bad choices, a relative I've never known entering my life, friends moving, a job change...the list goes on and on. Up and down. Up and down go the feelings. And must cling to an unchanging God in the midst of it all. 
 This weekend, I took a long walk up at a nearby lake to get away for a bit and clear my mind. Feed the soul. Listen to God. It occurred to me how often we let the moments pass us by in our ever on-going race to get ahead, do more, be better. And in so doing, we miss the now. We skip past the fact that God isn't in a hurry as we usually are...and that we more than likely cannot discover how He really intends our one life to be lived if we're always on the run. Always chasing. 

 If we aren't stopping to breathe...if we aren't pausing to take in Him...then we lose what this who thing is really all about. We lose sight of God. And we become the only thing that matters. Gospel-centered living isn't always about quantity but quality. Making the moments of our days worship. Filling with thankfulness. Blessing and praising. Getting off the beaten road and daring to take the one less-traveled so that we gain perspective. So that we learn to open our eyes and see what matters. 
 Life has seemed to go by me at a blistering pace in recent months. And my soul has been starving to be cared for. In my efforts to check things off a list, I've lost a part of me along the way. And recently, a friend dared me to begin doing life differently. So I am. I'm taking a job that will allow me better hours so that I can slow the pace of life down and take time for what is most important. I'm carving out moments to dig deep into Scripture and soak in all that Jesus is and wants me to become. I'm walking away from the hectic pace of modern-day life so that I can have more chances to love deeply, breathe freely. 
 The losses in my life recently have reminded me, once again, that nothing ever stays the same. People who are here today may be gone tomorrow. And I don't want to keep on living with regrets of what could or should have been done or said before it was too late. 
I've spent a lot of time lately texting or calling people that matter in my life to tell them so. Asking their forgiveness in some cases for all the times I haven't gotten it right with them and making determinations to embrace the gift of them more in the future. 
 Today, I want to challenge you to hug those you love tightly. Don't leave anything important unsaid. Seek out the opportunities you have to bless somebody and make their day better. Make amends where necessary. Because life is too short to spend living in a hurry, putting things off, saying the hasty word, doing the hasty deed, or simply thinking that "now is not a good time" to do something you may never get another chance to. 
 In simple terms: don't let the moments pass you by. 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Quote of the Day

" Be not discouraged; the Lord only afflicts for good. It is necessary that our sharpest trials should sometimes spring from our dearest comforts, else we should be in danger of forgetting ourselves, and setting up our rest here. In such a world, and with such hearts as we have, we shall often need something to prevent our cleaving to the dust, to quicken us to prayer and to make us feel that our dependence for one hour's peace is upon the Lord alone."
                   - John Newton 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Do not let the Lord's dealings seem harsh, rough, or unfatherly because they are unpleasant. When His blessed will blows across your desires, it is best to strike sail in humility, and deny yourself so you have no will of your own. Give yourself as a gift to God to make use of for His will. Every day make more and more of Christ, and test your growth in the grace of God."
                    - Samuel Rutherford in Voices From The Past

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Oh how little do we aim at the glory of God and regard it in our prayers! We should seek it not only above the profits and pleasures of this life, but even above life itself. But alas, since the fall, we are corrupt and wholly poisoned with self-love, that we prefer every base interest and trifle before God...a word of disgrace, a little contempt cast upon our persons fills us with rage; but we can hear God's name dishonored, and not be moved about it...
The best of us, when we come to pray, what a deep sense we have of our own needs, and no desire of the glory of God...God did not make us for ourselves, but for His own glory."
                    - Thomas Manton in Voices From The Past

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Quote of the Day

"May we take a pattern from the angels! Their whole desire is, to fulfill the will of God; and they account no service mean in which He is pleased to employ them...Our vanity prompts us to aim at something great, and to wish for such services as might make us known, talked of, and regarded. But a child of God, if in the way of duty, and in the place which the Lord's providence has allotted him, is well employed...provided he does it humbly, thankfully, and heartily, as to the Lord. An angel so placed could do no more."
                 - John Newton 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Show Grace - Part 2

 A followup to yesterday's post regarding how we, as Jesus' disciples, should handle the division going on in our world today. John Newton once again:

"The two great points we are called to pursue in this sinful divided world, are peace and holiness: I hope you are much in the study of them. These are peculiar characteristics of a disciple of Jesus; they are the richest part of the enjoyments of heaven; and so far as they are received into the heart, they bring down heaven upon earth; and they are more inseparably connected between themselves than some of us are aware of. The longer I live, the more I see of the vanity and sinfulness of our unchristian disputes: they eat up the very vitals of religion. I grieve to think how often I have lost my time and my temper that way, presuming to regulate the vineyards of others, when I have neglected my own; when the beam in my own eye has so contracted my sight, that I could discern nothing but the mote in my neighbor's. I am now desirous to choose a better part. Could I speak the publican's words with proper feeling, I wish not for the tongue of men or angels to fight about notions or sentiments. I allow that every branch of gospel truth is precious, that errors are abounding, and that it is our duty to bear an honest testimony to what the Lord has enabled us to find comfort in, and to instruct with meekness such as are willing to be instructed; but I cannot see it my duty, nay, I believe it would be my sin, to attempt to beat my notions into other people's heads. Too often I have attempted it in time past; but I now judge, that both my zeal and my weapons were carnal. When our dear Lord questioned Peter, after his fall and recovery, He said not, 'Art thou wise, learned, and eloquent?' Nay, He said not, 'Art thou clear, and sound, and orthodox?' But this only, 'Lovest thou me?'"

Let me leave the final word with God's Word itself:

"Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."
             - Hebrews 12:14

Monday, September 25, 2017

Show Grace

 I have wrestled with how (or if) I should further address the increasing divisions going on in our country since this blog is not a political or social forum but a place of spiritual discussion and openness for those hurting and seeking hope. However, I am not naive to the on-going situations that are dividing us over theological truth, racial issues, political preference, and so many other topics. I have spoken my perspective without specifics in recent months, and my message has come down to a simple truth: show others the same grace and patience that God has granted you. As these discussions have raged on, I feel the same message must be emphasized. However, I prayed yesterday over how to keep addressing them without being redundant. Then, my eyes fell on these words written by John Newton in the early 1800s as he dealt with the religious and social hostility of his own day...and this, I feel, is all that can be said regarding the issues we face today: 

"Observation and experience contribute, by the grace of God, gradually to soften and sweeten our spirits; but then there will always be ground for mutual forbearance and mutual forgiveness on this head. However, so far as I may judge of myself, I think this hastiness is not my most easily besetting sin. I am not indeed an advocate for that indifference and lukewarmness to the truths of God, which seem to constitute the candor many plead for in the present day. But while I too hold fast the sound doctrines of the Gospel towards the persons of my fellow creatures, I wish to exercise all moderation and benevolence: Protestants or [Catholics], Socinians or Deists, Jews, Samaritans, or [Muslims], all are my neighbors; they have all a claim upon me for the common offices of humanity. As to religion, they cannot all be right; nor may I compliment them by allowing the differences between us are trivial, when I believe and know they are important; but I am not to expect them to see with my own eyes. I am deeply convinced of the truth of John Baptist's aphorism, John 3:27, 'A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.' I well know, that the little measure of knowledge I have obtained in the things of God has not been owing to my wisdom or docility, but to His goodness. Nor did I get it all at once; He has been pleased to exercise much patience and long-suffering towards me...since He first gave me a desire of learning from Himself. He has graciously accommodated Himself to my weakness, borne with my mistakes, and helped me through innumerable prejudices which, but for His mercy, would have been insuperable hindrances; I have therefore no right to be angry, impatient, or censorious, especially as I have still so much to learn, and am so poorly influenced by what I seem to know."

Fellow readers and friends - show grace. Give mercy. Disagree if you must with others, and always stand for the truth, but do so in respect and civility, for who knows but we may win over an enemy by our love. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Prayer of the Day

"Heavenly Father, help us to bow to Your sovereign will, to bear with patience every stroke of Your rod, and to learn the holy and important lessons which You intend to teach us. May we not only submit to Your discipline but, seeing the loving which ordains it, and the need there is for it, even acquiesce in it. Keep us from fretting at pain, repining at losses, or giving way to too much grief at bereavements, knowing that all these things come from You, and that You design them for our good. Help us to understand that every trial and every trouble is a blessing - and will end in eternal glory! Sweet thought! 
O for grace to yield ourselves to You - and to sweetly acquiesce in all Your paternal dealings!"
                 - James Smith

Friday, September 22, 2017

Quote of the Day

"...If He frowns, or dips His pen in gall, it is done in love. Afflictions, though sharp arrows, are shot from a loving Father. God afflicts in love to humble and purify. He smites that He might save. If He hides His face, it is in love...God withdraws comfort to stir the embers into fire. When God hides His face from His children, He is still a Father and His heart yearns for them."
                  - Thomas Watson in Voices From The Past

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Afflictions are as nails, driven by the hand of grace, which crucify us to the world. The husbandman ploughs his lands, and the gardener prunes his trees, to make them fruitful. The jeweler cuts and polishes his diamonds, to make them shine the brighter. The refiner flings his gold into the furnace, that it may come out the purer. And God afflicts His people, to make them better. 'To thank God for mercies, ' said a pious divine of the last century, 'is the way to increase them: to thank him for miseries, is the way to remove them. Afflictions are then blessings to us, when we can bless God for afflictions: whose single view, in causing us to pass through the fire, is only to separate the sin He hates from the soul He loves.' And, in all His dealings with them, let them remember that, though He cause grief, yet He will have compassion: at the worst of times, He will either suit His dispensations to their strength, or accommodate their strength to His dispensations. And when the faith of an afflicted saint is in exercise, his grace, as a good man expresses it, 'resemble a garden of roses, or a well of rose-water; which the more they are stirred and agitated by the storm, the sweeter is the fragrance they exhale.'"
             - Augustus Toplady

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Afflictions are always painful, and days of afflictions are often gloomy. But as we are training for eternity, as we are maturing for Heaven, and as afflictions are necessary discipline, we must be afflicted. If chastisement were not necessary, then our loving Father would never use the rod. But as every one of us needs correction, He chastens every son whom He receives. God's chastisements are intended for our instruction - they are designed to teach us the evil of sin, our need of grace, the holiness of God, the preciousness of Jesus, the emptiness of the world, and the blessedness of Heaven. These are lessons of the deepest importance to us - lessons that we are slow to learn; and therefore, we must have line upon line, and stroke upon stroke."
                - James Smith 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Quote of the Day

"If you are going to be used by God, He will take you through a multitude of experiences that are not meant for you at all, they are meant to make you useful in His hands, and to enable you to understand what transpires in others souls so that you will never be surprised at what you come across...
The sufferings of Christ are not those of ordinary men. He suffered 'according to the will of God,' not from the point of view we suffer from as individuals. It is only when we are related to Jesus Christ that we can understand what God is after in His dealings with us...In the history of the Christian Church the tendency has been to evade being identified with the sufferings of Jesus Christ; men have sought to procure the carrying out of God's order by a short cut of their own. God's way is always the way of suffering, the way of the 'long, long trail.' 
Are we partakers in Christ's sufferings? Are we prepared for God to stamp our personal ambitions right out? Are we prepared for God to destroy by transfiguration our individual determinations? It will not mean that we know exactly why God is taking us that way...We never realize at the time what God is putting us through; we go through it more or less misunderstandingly; then we come to a luminous place, and say - 'Why, God has girded me, though I did not know it!'"
                        - Oswald Chambers 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Quote of the Day

"...Some great trial or temptation bursts like a tempest on the serenity of our life and overwhelms us with a sense of danger and distress. We are terrified and trembling; we see nothing but the peril that surrounds us; we struggle against the storms as best we can till there is no more endurance in us; and then we go the Master with the bitter cry of those about to perish!
Yet, as a matter of fact, He has been with us all the time. Has He not promised to never leave us? Is there not always access by faith into His gracious presence? He may be in the hinder part of the ship, asleep, and apparently oblivious of all that is passing around Him, but the pillow beneath His head is His own omniscience, and as surely as He ruled those waves and winds on Galilee's lake and reined in the tempest with a word, so certainly does He manage all the affairs of His children and appoint or permit all that concerns them."
               - Susannah Spurgeon

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Prayer of the Day

"O wonder-working God, Your dealings with us are often dark, and difficult to be understood! Give us faith to believe Your promises when we cannot understand Your providences. Let us be assured of Your love to us when we cannot ascertain the design of Your dealings with us. Preserve us from a repining, complaining, and unbelieving spirit, and grant us grace that we may rest satisfied that You are acting rightly. May we learn, in whatever state we are, therewith to be content. With patience may we do and suffer Your will at present, being fully assured that all will be explained and opened up to us at length. O to be rest on Your covenant love, to trust Your faithful promises, and to commit all of our ways unto You!"
                - James Smith

Friday, September 15, 2017

Quote of the Day

"It cannot be said of any man that he is made without fear. Even the most courageous are not without some fear...The best of men are too apt to be overcome with fear in times of imminent distress and danger. But we do not duly consider God's almighty power, His vigilant care, unspotted faithfulness, and His engaged covenant for His people! This lies at the root of fear. If we but once thoroughly understood what power there is in God's hand to defend us, what tenderness in His heart to comfort us, and what faithfulness to all His promises given over us, O how quiet and calm would our hearts be! Our courage would quickly be up, and our fears down."
                 - John Flavel in Voices From The Past 2

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Quote of the Day

"The providences of God are often dark and mysterious. It is not easy to ascertain why the Lord acts as He does, or to find out the precise object which He has in view. He carries on His work according to His eternal and pre-ordained plan, and He accomplishes His purposes often by the most unlikely means. He works all things after the counsel of His own will, and He works leisurely, having no cause to hurry. We are naturally hasty, and want to know what God means at once. But He says, 'Be still. Wait. Watch. Let patience have her perfect work.' 
We may not be able to account for our trials, troubles, losses, and crosses...but all will be made plain by and by. 'Jesus said to him: You do not understand now what I am doing, but you will understand later on' (John 13:7). We now know in part, but we shall soon know even as also we are known. And until then, we may well be patient, assured that God is acting wisely, lovingly, and is consulting our good in all He does."
               - James Smith

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Quote of the Day

"I remember once reading words to this effect: that the moment we come into any trial or difficulty, our first thought should be not how soon we can escape from it or how we may lessen the pain we shall suffer from it, but how we can best glorify God in it and most quickly learn the lesson He desires to teach us by it. Had we grace and faith enough to do this, our trials and troubles would be but as so many steps by which we should climb to the mountaintop of continual fellowship and peace with God. The soul that has learned the blessed secret of seeing God's hand in all that concerns it cannot be prey to fear; it looks beyond all second causes straight into the heart and will of God and rests content because He rules."
              - Susannah Spurgeon

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

His Grace Is Sufficient

His Grace Is Sufficient

Many times I'm tried and tested
As I travel day by day.
'Oft I meet with pain and sorrow
And there's trouble in the way.
But I have a sweet assurance
That my soul the Lord will lead,
And in Him there is strength for every need.

When the Tempter brings confusion
And I don't know what to do,
On my knees I turn to Jesus,
For I know He'll see me through.
Then despair is changed to victory.
Every doubt just melts away,
And in Him there is hope for everyday.

Oh, His grace is sufficient for me.
And His love is abundant and free.
And what joy fills my soul,
Just to know, just to know
That His grace is sufficient for me.

- Mosie Lister

Monday, September 11, 2017

What To Hold Onto In A World That Is Falling Apart

 Lately, devastation has seemed to be everywhere: in places like Texas and Florida that  are far away, or closer to home as a neighbor's house now lies a burned pile of blackened beams - remnants of a life that once was. Of years of memories and possessions that are now gone and in the literal history heap of time. People everywhere facing inestimable loss and trying to figure how to rebuild their lives. 
 As I see all this, my heart aches. But I am also reminded that in this life nothing is certain. We often treat our things and those closest to us as if we would have them forever. But all it takes is for something like this to happen and we quickly are reminded that these are not lasting, no matter how special to us they are. As hard as we may try to hold onto them, they will still go away eventually. 
 These situations serve as confirmation to us that God Himself is the one sure thing in this short life. Faith is believing in a predictable God in an unpredictable world. It's that simple. All other things fail us in times like these. Even well-meaning words of comfort fail to assure us aside from the fact that God is sovereign and even the worst events that transpire are under His control. It may seem like things are falling may appear as if situations are meant to break us right into two...but in the eyes of God, things may actually be falling into place according to His mysterious design and purpose. That's how things work in the Kingdom. To our clouded view, it may seem as though God has left His throne and evil is reigning large but, in reality, God is allowing these calamities to teach us the fallibility of this one life and the stability of His love in the midst of all things unpredictable. 
 We all must face crisis. It is inevitable, for every one of us will walk through valleys we did not choose. We will have to face deeply painful moments in which every part of us wants to run away...but in God, we must make ourselves choose brave. The truly faithful follower is that one who dares to believe God is good - even when everything else tells you otherwise. When life is falling apart, the only truth to hold onto is that God has a good purpose in everything He allows. If He is so well-intentioned, who are we to question Him and not accept what He gives! Who are we to tell Him He has failed us when He holds the universe (and these weak hearts of ours) in His strong and capable hands!
 In the midst of all this devastation, God speaks to us as He did so long ago to His own fearful disciples: "Do not be afraid." And in our moments of doubting, He questions us with the simple, "Oh you of little faith!" 
 It's hard to trust. It's hard to keep opening the hands. It's hard to keep telling a trembling heart that God loves when all around it appears as though He's left it all to fall apart and die. And yet, God has never left us alone. Never left us to face the hardest things without hope. 
 So hope on, dear soul. God is forever faithful, and you are forever loved. Let the devastation crumble all around, but be thou at peace.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Why It's Not Up To Us

 I've come to a startling yet freeing conclusion of late...and it's changed everything for me. Simple as this: it's not up to me. It's not up to me to sustain my faith in God; it's not up to me to make myself be brave and choose belief over fear; it's not up to me to will myself to do the hard things for God. I can only receive what I am given...I can only give out what I am given, and if God does not grant me the grace to follow through with these things, doubt, fear, and hiding are my impulse responses. 
 For most of my Christian life, I've lived as though God's favor ebbed and flowed with my spurts in the walk of faith. I felt as though it was up to me to "do it right" or God would somehow dislike me and turn away His care for me. I've lived in fear that I would lose His love as I would a human being's love based on how well I performed in my daily walk. I've lived as though I had to hold this weak heart together - for God's sake. 
 But now...I'm seeing it so clearly, and I'm embracing this new realization. It's never been about me at all. Ever. It's never been up to me at all. Ever. From the beginning, this one life has been about God's story. God's redemption. God's hope. God's love lived through me - trembling soul that I am. 
 Every aspect of my Christian life...including just that: eternal life itself...has been gifted to me by an all-wise, all-knowing Providential God who ordained in His sovereign will that I would be His child since before time began. Of my own choosing, in my natural state, I would never have chosen God. I would have rejected Him...time and time again. Even in my redeemed state, I continue to deal with the fallen affects of an unregenerate nature in my old self which fights against all things pertaining to the renewed life. Before, this fact used to scare me. I was afraid of my own sin. Not just healthily afraid in the sense I didn't want to dishonor my Lord...but I was afraid of all the times I failed Him. Afraid that I could never please Him fully. Never succeed in this Christian life. At all. Ever. 
 And yet...what a freeing reality God is beginning to drive into my soul. Deeply. Eternally. That never once, since my conversion, have I ever been at a point where God would disown me. No matter how badly I've sinned, His grace is still more. Never once has He ever threatened to withdraw His favor over my failings. Correct He may, but never disown. Allow adversity He might, but only for my good and my growth. When He chose to be my Father and me to be His child, His heart and His love were forever set upon me, and nothing that I do can make Him give up on me or walk away from me. 
 I think the thing is this: perhaps over the course of my Christian life, my thoughts of God have been too human. I've viewed God in light of other human relationships instead of as a stand-alone, tried and true relationship by which all others are defined. I've had everything reversed...and now God is turning it all right-side up. 
 Maybe you've struggled with this too - you have worked so hard at your Christian life that you feel exhausted, empty, and unfulfilled. You feel like you've missed the life abundant God promised you. But perhaps you could use a reminder that it's not up to you. God is responsible to sustain, uphold, and support your faith. And you only need to cooperate with Him in the sanctifying process. An open heart is all He asks for. The rest is up to Him. Keep striving to be holy - that you must do. But leave the matter with Him beyond that. Trust His hold on you more than your hold on Him. Because once He has set His love on you, it cannot be taken away. It's up to Him. Completely. Finally. Forever. 
 And how freeing a thought is that! 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Quote of the Day

" 'I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.' These words mean the breaking of my independence with my own hand and surrendering to the supremacy of the Lord Jesus. No one can do this for me, I must do it myself. God may bring me up to the point three hundred and sixty-five times a year, but He cannot put me through it. It means breaking the husk of my individual independence of God, and the emancipating of my personality into oneness with Himself, not for my own ideas, but for absolute loyalty to Jesus."
                  - Oswald Chambers in My Utmost For His Highest

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Quote of the Day

"If I am a friend of Jesus, I am deliberately and carefully to lay down my life for Him. It is difficult, and thank God it is difficult. Salvation is easy because it cost God so much, but the manifestation of it in my life is difficult. God saves a man and endues him with the Holy Spirit, and then says in effect, 'Now work it out - be loyal to Me, whilst the nature of things round about you would make you disloyal.'"
            - Oswald Chambers

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Desiring God

 I was just recently introduced to this incredible poem, and I knew right away I had to share it with all of you. Since first reading this, I have been praying its contents, and I hope the same will be said for you...

Desire Of God

Oh for freedom, for freedom in worshipping God,
For the mountain-top feeling of generous souls,
For the health, for the air, of the hearts deep and broad,
Where grace not in rills but in cataracts rolls!

Most good is the brisk wholesomeness of fear,
And the calm wise obedience of conscience is sweet;
And good are all worships, all loyalties dear,
All promptitudes fitting, all services meet.

But none honors God like the thirst of desire,
Nor possesses the heart so completely with Him;
For it burns the world out with the swift ease of fire,
And fills life with good works till it runs o'er the brim.

Then pray for desire, for love's wistfulest yearning,
For the beautiful pining of holy desire;
Yes, pray for a soul that is ceaselessly burning
With the soft fragrant flames of this thrice happy fire.

For the heart only dwells, truly dwells with its treasure,
And the langor of love captive hearts can unfetter;
And they who love God cannot love Him by measure,
For their love is but hunger to love Him still better. 

Is it hard to serve God, timid soul? Hast thou found
Gloomy forests, dark glens, mountain-tops on thy way?
All the hard would be easy, all the tangles unwound,
Wouldst thou only desire, as well as obey.

For the lack of desire is the ill of all ills;
Many thousands through it the dark pathway have trod,
The balsam, the wine of predestinate wills
Is the jubilant pining and longing for God.

'Tis a fire that will burn what thou canst not pass over;
'Tis a lightening that breaks away all bars to love;
'Tis a sunbeam the secrets of God to discover;
'Tis the wing David prayed for, the wing of the Dove.

I have seen living men - and their good angels know
How they failed and fell short through the want of desire:
Souls once almost saints have descended so low,
'Twill be much if their wings bear them over the fire.

I have seen dying men not so grand in their dying
As our love would have wished - and through lack of desire:
Oh that we may die languishing, burning, and sighing;
For God's last grace and best is to die all on fire.

'Tis a great gift of God to live after our Lord,
Yet the old Hebrew times they were ages of fire.
When fainting souls fed on each dim figured word,
And God called men He loved most - the Men of Desire.

Oh then wish more for God, burn more with desire,
Covet more the dear sight of His marvelous Face;
Pray louder, pray longer, for the sweet gift of fire
To come down on thy heart with its whirlwinds of grace.

Yes, pine for thy God, fainting soul! ever pine;
Oh languish mid all that life brings thee of mirth;
Famished, thirsty, and restless - let such life be thine, - 
For what sight is to heaven, desire is to earth.

God loves to be longed for, He loves to be sought,
For He sought us Himself with such longing and love:
He died for desire of us, marvelous thought!
And He yearns for us now to be with Him above.

- Frederick Faber (1814-1863)

Monday, September 4, 2017

More Of Him

 I've been walking through a challenging but very fruitful time in my spiritual life lately, and this song I'm sharing with you today has been a big part of that. God has been graciously allowing me to learn some crucial things about myself that are changing the way I live my life, the way I interact with others, and the way I see through to God. The way I can trust and live more in Grace everyday. It's simple really: I'm desiring more of Him and less of me. So easier said than done on a moment-to-moment basis, but I'm seeing how the little things translate into the big things when it comes to this important truth. It's the little decisions when you choose brave, you choose joy, you choose faith instead of letting your one life be controlled by fear and doubt. All these little things add up until your heart becomes filled with Him and emptied of yourself. Until you empty yourself of all that He has to offer. Until you empty only Him. 
 As I begin another week, I'm praying this in full for every single day...every moment, really:

"More of You, less of me,
Make me who I'm meant to be;
You're all I want, all I need,
You're everything.
Take it all - I surrender; be my King.
God, I choose more of You and less of me."

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Quote of the Day

"There is no such thing as a private life - 'a world within the world' for a man or woman who is brought into fellowship with Jesus Christ's sufferings. God breaks up the private life of His saints, and makes it a thoroughfare for the world on the one hand and for Himself on the other. No human being can stand that unless he is identified with Jesus Christ. We are not sanctified for ourselves, we are called into the fellowship of the Gospel, and things happen which have nothing to do with us. God is getting us into fellowship with Himself. Let Him have His way. If you do not, instead of being the slightest use to God in His redemptive work in the world, you will be a hindrance and a clog."
               - Oswald Chambers in My Utmost For His Highest

Friday, September 1, 2017

Keep Paddling

 Let's face it: life is like a white water rafting adventure. Living in Alaska, I'm very familiar with this form of transportation-entertainment. And, while I've never actually done it myself, I've learned a few things about this sport over time - many of which can be oh, so applicable to life itself. 
 The first lesson have to have courage. Nobody goes out on the white water rapids who isn't brave enough to face those churning waters and deal with fear. The same goes for life. One must choose brave every single moment of every day. It isn't for the faint of heart. We may know that, but do we preach it to ourselves hourly? Daily? So many things will try to get you to believe that doubt and fear are the first option. Humanly speaking, that's probably our first response in almost anything. But, if we are doing life God's way, we are to speak truth to ourselves and not listen to those fears because God is bigger than them all. It takes courage to keep choosing joy, choosing brave, choosing to live in Grace as one travels his or her own journey with God. It's not easy to stay calm when the craziness of life tosses us about. We must have faith in God's care for us and bravely continue to get into the boat and trust that He is with us...rather than doing as the disciples failed to do and crying out in fear when they forgot that He was in the boat with them, riding out the storm (Matthew 8:25-26). 
 Second lesson is...listen to your Instructor. Anybody who has taken a rafting trip knows that you must trust your expert whose done it before. You must listen to your guide. Same goes for our spiritual walk - when we fail to listen to Christ, who is our Guide, and we begin to focus too much on the waves and the rough waters, we let our own reason take over, and we will most likely make a grave mistake. We must keep our attention on the One who knows the direction better than us and trust Him to get us safely through. 

Lastly...we must keep paddling. If you want to make it through the rough waters, you must do your part to keep the momentum of the boat. It's not going to steer itself, and you'll most likely run aground on a rock if you don't direct it where you want it to go. In the Christian life, we must cooperate with the Lord in order to keep our walk with Him on track. While He will guide us in the paths of righteousness, it takes effort on our part to keep us there. We must keep paddling. Recently, I've seen many getting too comfortable in their Christian journey and failing to put in the necessary time and effort to stay in sync with God and their fellow believers. They sit back, trusting the boat to glide along, and feeling like they've got this whole Christianity thing under control. Truth is, hazards are waiting around the next corner, but they don't take that into account. They fail to realize the white waters of temptation, adversity, falsehood, and doubt are just around the bend, and they haven't built up enough momentum to carry them through those tough places. They end up either running their boat aground, or they fall out of the boat altogether. One must keep pressing into the hard things, doing the difficult and necessary measures in order to follow where God leads. This world has too many harsh realities waiting for us. Our Enemy is just looking for a chance to distract us enough, get us comfortable enough, where we'll stop pursuing the faith-life and we'll stop paddling. Truth is, we'll have moments when we get tired of paddling. In those times, we can either push ourselves to keep going, or we can hold on tight and allow others to help paddle for us until we've gathered enough strength to do our part once again. But we can't quit and stop completely. We'll fall and fail direly if we do. 
 I know life is hard. Lately, I've had to paddle a bit more furiously than before. I've had moments when I've had to ask others in my life-raft to pick up some slack because my spirit is tired. But yet, I'm determined not to fall out of this boat. I may get wet, the waves may be quiet intimidating, but I'm not going to loosen my grip on God, and I'm going to trust His eternal grip on me. I've ditched a whole lot of unhelpful people and things out of my life recently, because I know I can only have the most faithful friends and the most sure truth to carry on this journey. I'm safe in the boat of the Gospel with Christ as my Guide. If you know Him, the same goes for you too. 
 Let's all stick together, friends. Many are falling around us because they can't stand these rapids we are currently riding out. Let's keep praying for one another. Let's keep loving each other fearlessly. Let's keep helping one another in our weakest hour...because those of us who are willing to stick this out with the Lord shall see and experience the blessings He has waiting for us at the end. 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Quote of the Day

"God's mindfulness of His people is not a thing of yesterday. There never was a period, when he had not our interests at heart."
              - Augustus Toplady

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Learning From A Vine

 There is a reason why Jesus used the analogy of the vineyard so often in the Bible. If you look through Scripture, you find so many references to this humble, fruit-bearing plant. In Jeremiah 2:21 it talks about the fruitful vine as being God's obedient people while the empty vine (or wild grapes) were the disobedient ones who failed to follow God. In Isaiah 5:1-8 and John 15:1-2 God used the vine once again to illustrate how hearts must be pruned and tended if they are to produce good faith. Of course, John 15:1-5 is the most famous passage where Christ describes Himself as the Master-Gardener and all of us believing ones as the vines He cares for. 
 However, while watching a travel show on Italy late at night recently, another interesting lesson from this plant jumped out at me: the travel guide said that the vineyard-keepers evaluate when to water and not water their grape plants because "when you water them, they reach for the water and grow taller; but when you withhold the water, they put down roots and go deeper into the ground where moisture may be found." 

 It struck me that God does the same thing with these hearts of ours: He evaluates what we need and orders the seasons of our lives accordingly. Sometimes He knows that He must send the water of His refreshing presence and love in such a way as to cause us to reach higher, grow taller, push ourselves toward greater levels of faith and holiness. But other times, He knows that we need to dig deeper and put our roots into better places and get grounded in truth and firmly planted in grace. Thus, He withholds Himself to an extent that we must reach down and grab hold of His promises and His Word so that we are "steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord..." (1 Cor. 15:58)
 How precious and wise and loving of God to care for us in this way?! As a reminder of our feeble sense, we would most likely ask for a continual supply of water from Him, but we would grow too tall for our own good and we would drown ourselves so that we could not be fruitful. God knows we need the drier times too, the wilderness seasons where we must discover where our roots are placed. We must go deeper instead of higher so that we are balanced in the truth and our soul-vines can be fruitful and abundant for our Master-Gardener. 
 It's amazing how God reveals so much of Himself and His treatment of us through His creation. We are absolutely without excuse (Rom. 1:20) and have every reason to plead God's forgiveness for all of the times we've mis-judged His dealings with us! 
Just trust His process, my friend, and all will be well with your soul! 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Quote of the Day

"To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything He has given us - and He has given us everything. Every breath is we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God."
                 - Thomas Merton

Monday, August 28, 2017

Quote of the Day

"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you."
                - Thomas Merton

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Quote of the Day

"The first thing God does with us is to get us based on rugged reality until we do not care what becomes of us individually as long as He gets His way for the purpose of His redemption. Why shouldn't we go through heartbreaks? Through those doorways God is opening up ways of fellowship with His Son. Most of us fall and collapse at the first grip of pain; we sit down on the threshold of God's purpose and die away of self-pity, and all so-called Christian sympathy will aid us to our death bed. But God will not. He comes with the grip of the pierced hand of His Son, and says, 'Enter into fellowship with Me, arise and shine.' If through a broken heart God can bring His purposes to pass in the world, then thank Him for breaking your heart."
                  - Oswald Chambers in My Utmost For His Highest

Friday, August 25, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Our affairs are forever getting tangled, like threads in a child's hands - and we cannot straighten out the tangles ourselves! We cannot see how anything beautiful or good can come out of our poor living, or our feeble striving. 
Our days are full of disappointments, and our night's rest is broken by anxieties. Yet it is the Christian's privilege to commit all life's tangles into the hands of Jesus Christ. He can take our broken things - and build them up into beauty!
One of the finest windows in a great cathedral is said to have been made out of the fragments of broken glass which the workmen had thrown away as worthless. A skillful hand gathered them up - and wrought them into lovely form.
In the same way, Jesus Christ can take our failures, our mistakes, our follies, our broken fragments of life, and even our sins - and make them into beautiful life and character!"
               - J. R. Miller 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Let every afflicted believer, therefore, rejoice in that he is made low. God deals out our comforts and our sorrows, with exact, unerring hand, in number, weight, and measure. Hence we have not, either of joy or adversity, a grain too little or too much. If less tribulation would suffice, less would be given. We are bad enough, with all our troubles: what then should we be, if ye were exercised with none?"
             - Augustus Toplady 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Prayer of the Day

"Let me not murmur under the heaviest cross in the prospect of such a crown. Let me not refuse to pass cheerfully through the hottest furnace which is to refine and purify me for this exceeding and eternal weight of glory! Allow me to bear with calm serenity, whatever cross You see fit to lay upon me."
                   - John MacDuff 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

It Is Well

Recently I came across a newly-released song that has been ministering to my heart these past days. The title of the album (soon to be released) caught my eye: "Farewell To Fear" by the group Finding Favour. In clicking on this song title, I knew I had found my new favorite. I wanted to share these beautiful words with you today because I think we could all use a little comfort, a little reminder that God is still sovereign and in control over all aspects of life. We just have to trust Him!

"Your Spirit's my assurance when trials may come;
I'm holding to the promise that You've already won,
It is well..."

Monday, August 21, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Think of the brokenness, the incompleteness, the littleness of these lives of ours! 
We get glimpses of beauty in character, which we are not able to attain! We have spiritual longings which seem to us too great to ever come true. We dream of things we want to do but when we try to work them out, our clumsy hands cannot put them into realizations!
We have glimmerings of a love that is very rich and tender, without a trace of selfishness, without envy or jealousy, without resentment - a love which does not seek its own, more is not provoked, and bears all things. We get the vision from the life of Christ Himself. We say, 'I will learn that lesson of love - I will be like that!' But we fail.
We strive to be sweet-spirited, unselfish, thoughtful, kind - but we must wet our pillow with tears at the close of our marred days, because we cannot be what we strive to be! We have glimpses of an inner peace which is very beautiful. We strive after it, strive with intense effort - but do not reach it!
So it is in all our living. Life is ever something too large for us. We attain only fragments of living. Yet take heart, 'The desire of the righteous shall be granted!' (Proverbs 10:24)"
             - J. R. Miller 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Quote of the Day

"...Wounds can be openings to the beauty in us. And our weaknesses can be a container for God's glory. Hannah tasted salty tears of infertility. Elijah howled for God to take his life. David asked his soul a thousand times why it was so downcast. God does great things through the greatly wounded. God sees the broken as the best and He sees the best in the broken and He calls the wounded to be the world changers."
                 - Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way

Friday, August 18, 2017

Quote of the Day

"I thought I'd encourage you this week with one little thought - and that's that you don't need to hide from God. In fact, do we realize how funny that even sounds? As if we really could.
So we put on a mask, put on a front, and try to only put our best foot forward to our friends, our spouse, or the outside world on social media. But that's what's awesome is God didn't die for the 'best foot forward' us. He died for the messy version. The failing version. The one who deals with shame, and past decisions, and hurt, and anxiety, and depression, and on and on. He sees us right in that. Right in the hard place. And with fiery white hot eyes of love says I see you. You are who I want to be with. I died for this version of you, you don't have to hide anymore.
His voice is tender and gracious and beautiful and calls us out of hiding. Might we step into that call today? Because that's where freedom is at."
           - Jefferson Bethke

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Maybe us with broken hearts simply need that - key people who break us open to see how Christ never stops holding our wounds, to break us free from all the crushing expectations, key people who simply say, 'Come, it's safe to be real here, safe to let the brokenness come.' Who doesn't need key people who free us from the old courtrooms where judgement and the scales of perfection have felt like millstones around our breaking necks? There isn't one of us who doesn't need key people who believe that the broken are the most beloved, that the busted are the brave, that the limping can lead - and that everything that looks like it's breaking apart might actually be falling together. 
And isn't this what I've been longing to be - broken and broken free to be a key person? One of the soul emancipators who unleash others into who they are already in Him, no judging skeletons in closets...
Maybe - we become a key person when we hand a key to break someone giving each other our broken hearts. 
It's always the vulnerable heart that breaks broken hearts free. 
Am I brave live not afraid of broken things?"
                   - Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way

Today, I am thankful for the key people in my life who love me enough to not be afraid of my brokenness and who are the human hands and feet of Jesus to me daily. I hope and pray that through this blog I have been and can continue to be a key person to some other hurting soul out there! 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Farewell To Fear

 Over the three and a half years I've been blogging on here, I've made many confessions. I've discussed things that I never expected would ever be brought to light. I've opened up some fairly painful conversation on here regarding myself...and all of ourselves. How we're not getting it right but God the worst things are never the last thing...that redemption is always winning even if we don't readily see it. I'm going to make yet another big revelation about myself. Perhaps you've picked up on it in previous posts, but I'm going to go deeper this time. The last couple of weeks have wrecked me in the best way possible. And I've come to conclusions that have and will forever change the way I do life.
 For most of my life, I've been a fear-driven person. Never really saw that about myself since I have a pretty confident, independent spirit about me. But it's true...and I'm beginning to embrace God's given grace to face the hard truth about this fact.
Over the years, I've feared rejection; I've feared failure; I've feared success; I've feared darkness; I've even feared heights (and still do, by the way!) But the one thing I'm realizing I've feared the most is being known. Deeply and lovingly known. I've always done relationships of any kind on my terms, only letting others in as far as I felt comfortable. Then...setting a boundary when it got to be too close. I've missed out on love in so many little ways because I wasn't sure I could be known and still accepted for the worst of me.
 God has worked through two of three stages of healing in this area of my life as I've journeyed toward grace over the years: 1) to be loved fearlessly by God, 2) to fearlessly love others...and now, 3) to be fearlessly loved by others. I'm realizing just how bad at this I really am. I am slowly learning how to let God love me radically, and I'm getting the hang a bit of how to care for and love on others unconditionally. But this receiving love thing?...that's hard.
 Earlier this summer, I had a conversation with a friend who bravely spoke to my fear about some things involving our friendship going forward and the truth was presented to me in the most gentle way possible: your fears have no place here. This is the safe zone where all things vulnerable, imperfect, not right, weak can be discussed and presented to God in all graciousness and understanding. This conversation led me to begin realizing just how much I doubt others care, how much I question if their love is genuine, how much I hold back out of fear they will leave. I am not willing to let myself be known. It's that simple. And I am wrong for doing so. I'm afraid of what might happen if I let the truth about the worst of me come out. And so I put up walls.
 But what I'm starting to see is that true love takes risks. Those who love fearlessly are willing to go places others won't go. Those people change lives because their love opens closed doors so that others can be fearlessly loved. It's happening to me thanks to a couple of bold and beautiful friends in my life who are kindly but courageously letting me know that it's okay to not be okay, that grace covers all mistakes, that forgiveness runs deep, and that God is forever good regardless of my failings. They are proving one little word or act at a time that those who are my true friends are the ones who wade deep into the heart-messy without fear and bring prayer, healing words of life, and love. Those who walk away from my life are simply ones not willing to be fearlessly loved and known either.
 And so...I'm saying farewell to fear. Because I'm realizing I can't let this run my life anymore. It's been too much of a hindrance to me for more years than I care to admit. It's held me back from taking steps of faith that God and others ask of me. And I'm done with that. I'm ready to be brave. I'm ready to live fully. God cares too much and, as I've recently discovered, others care too much to let me stay in this afraid-ness any longer. It's time to put out my hands in trust and be willing to risk. God's got me...and so do my friends.
 Perhaps you've got an area of your life where you're afraid to be known and deeply loved. Maybe you struggle as do I in this place of being willing to be fearlessly loved and to love fearlessly. It just might help us both if we remember that God risked His life because of His love for us and, therefore, we are free to risk our hearts to love one another in a flawed but similar manner.
 We're more loved than we realize. So let's say farewell to fear. Let's take the faith dare and choose brave together. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Jesus risked Himself on me. How can I not risk my life on you? You may not love me back. You may humble me, humiliate me, reject me, shatter my heart, and drive the shards into my soul - but this is not the part that matters. What matters most is always the most vulnerable communion...What matters is that in the act of loving we become more like the givenness of Love Himself. What matters most is not if our love makes other people change, but that in loving, we change. What matters is that in the sacrificing to love someone, we become more like Someone. Regardless of anything or anyone else changing, the success of loving is in how we change because we kept on loving."
                - Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way

Monday, August 14, 2017

Mercy Changes Everything

 This weekend I sat at my computer, and my heart ached. Scenes of neighbor shouting against neighbor, friend divided against friend, skin-color pitted against skin-color...endless feed of human bitterness, anger, hatred. People bashing one another over religious, social, political, or other differences causing the soul-pain to run deep on all sides. 
 As I stared at the news coming out of Charlottesville, as I saw the endless string of social media posts aimed at "pointing out the truth" while making others feel stupid, as I un-followed some individuals whose angry tone I just could no longer take...I honestly felt sick. Deeply sick. 

Where in the all this broken, sinful grace?!

 Grace. Yes. I think we could all use a bit more of that. And not just grace given from God Himself...but the passing on of that grace to one another. When I see the worst of humanity coming out at times like this, it causes me to realize how often we make society's problems worse because we condemn instead of love, we beat down instead of raise up, we judge others instead of looking at our own selves first. We use our beliefs as a justifying reason for what we say and do but fail to notice the prideful tone in which we do them. We pray and ask God for forgiveness, yet we fail to forgive and pray for those who are in contradiction to our own convictions. We request God's grace, only to turn around and fail to give it to someone else who needs it too. More often than not, we are like the servant in the Bible who was forgiven his own debt but wouldn't forgive the debts of someone else who owed him (Matthew 18:21-35). And, in so doing, we cheapen the very thing God has given us to save us. 
  Sometimes, as His followers, we aren't very wise imitators of the One we profess to believe in. We throw around the phrase, "what would Jesus do?" but in practice, we act of our own will instead of the Savior's. And oddly enough, we feel like our Lord needs defending - like it's up to us to set the world right when, in reality, God really doesn't need us at all. The all-Sovereign God is fully capable of sorting out the issues of the world, and He chooses to use us as His living sermons to a dying culture...yet we think we must, in the name of God, fix everyone and everything. Yet, if we were truthful, we usually end up hurting more than helping God's cause. 
 It seriously pains me to watch so many people who claim to follow God shouting in the streets against the things they think God is against. And I ache inside to think of all the opportunities we're missing, of all the souls we are turning away and hardening, because we aren't willing to listen, to love, to get down into the heart-messy, to be the hands of Jesus to a world in need. We preach about how we need to go and teach nations of God's love we are: being known to our society as simply the people who are against everything instead of the ones who are for
 Our witness to a watching culture is being diminished more and more as they see us marching in the streets, yelling on social media about how "they're all wrong," turning away those whose hearts are broken because we simply can't figure out how to relate to them, giving the stares to those who are different from us, staying away from the uncomfortable because we're too afraid to step into that in faith. It's easier for us to do as Jesus's disciples did to call down fire and judgement on the ungodly (Luke 9:54) or to start cutting off ears as did Peter (John 18:10) than for us to put aside our emotions and simply extend grace. 
 Have we so quickly forgotten what we have received? Have we neglected to do for others what Christ selflessly did for us and demonstrated as a pattern that we should follow? Have we so soon failed to remember the simple fact that mercy changes everything? 
 After all, if it were not for God's mercy, we would not be able to experience the blessings of this one life we've been granted. God could have had His grace run out a long time ago if He had chosen to, but He continues to be patient with us as His children way beyond what we deserve. If we were to truly take this to heart, perhaps it would be easier to set self aside and learn to love deeply. Only grace can make a human being able to love and care for others who least deserve such. 
 And when we choose to picket instead of pray, to holler and shout down our opponents instead of use soft answers to turn away anger; when we take the position of know-it-alls when our Savior went to the cross and died for sinners who knew Him not, then we've failed miserably in our assignment to represent Him on earth. And people are dying in the soul because of it. People are leaving our churches because of it. People are turning away from our Jesus because of it. 
 It's time for us to stop focusing so much on setting the wrongs right and instead start embracing the lost, the broken, the least of these with the radical love of Jesus. The kind of love that takes freshly-baked muffins out to the rioting street corner and offers food and says, "You're loved." The kind of love that listens deeply and seeks to find common ground instead of staking out divisions. The kind of love that chooses the humbler path, knowing that apart from God, you would most likely be messed up too. The kind of love that remembers what it's been given and simply wants others to feel it too. That kind of love is what can set captive hearts free, open the prison soul-doors and let God's light walk in. That kind of love is what can change a church, a community, a nation, and the world. 
 Racial divides would be torn down if we only saw one another as beautiful creations of the living God, made in His image regardless of whether or not we agree. Arguments about social ills, political correctness, church doctrine, religious practice, etc would be demolished once we simply sought God's Word and way as to how to treat one another and how to fear and honor God Himself. 
 See, it's not really about the issues themselves. It's about us. Our hearts. All the ways in which broken people are trying to get along with and "fix" other broken people. And really, God is the only cure for us all. Grace and mercy must be the beginning and ending points. Otherwise, the noise and the anger only grow, the tensions rise, the hurting continues. It's high time we ask God to forgive us for going about it all so wrong. For choosing fear over faith, for taking sides instead of siding with Him, for picking fights over things that don't matter in the long run. 
 Whatever your cause is that you are engaging in, whatever outreach you are doing, whatever ministry you are taking on, whatever platform God has given you to speak truth to a world that needs to hear about Him...tread carefully how you go about it. Criticizing, judging, making fun of, condemning, picketing, shouting, defending are not the way to bring God's love to a hurting world. Showing grace in the little things as well as the big is. 
Just keep God big in view, and yourself small, and all will right itself. God will go before you and give you words to speak in the moments you need to speak them. God will prepare hearts to receive as you listen to and act on His direction. Because this fight isn't really yours at all. It's His. 
 So please...stop the arguing on social media, stop picketing in the streets, and shouting at your neighbors and enemies, stop taking your causes so seriously that you leave God out. Stop taking on the mountains of falsehood and simply asking God to come along when all God really wants from you is humble, faithful, loving service. Just accept and give grace. And God will take care of the rest. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Quote of the Day

"We thought we came to God by doing it right, and lo and behold, surprise of surprises, we come to God by doing it wrong - and growing because of it! The only things strong enough to break open our heart are things like pain, mistakes, unjust suffering, tragedy, failure, and the general absurdity of life. I wish it were not so, but it clearly is."
                    - Richard Rhor

Friday, August 11, 2017

Grace To Fail...And Get Up Again

 How many times has someone ever told you it's okay to fail? Probably not many. And you've most likely never told yourself that it's okay either. In our performance-driven society, mistakes and failures are not given enough credit. I don't mean that striving for excellence isn't a good thing, or that setting goals for yourself and pushing hard to achieve them isn't admirable. But often, an improper idea of failure can cause us to give up hope. We think that it's not okay to fall. That the hallmark of the one who impresses in this world is the one who "has it all together," who finds perfection at every turn. But we fail to remind ourselves that any person who ever did anything worthwhile in this world first learned how to fail before they could learn to succeed. 
 I've struggled with this fear of failure for most of my life. I've never been a natural at anything and, so often, my many attempts at mastery in things left me more discouraged than hopeful. Years ago I would sometimes quit because I felt like I could never be "good enough" for the thing I was striving for, or the people I wanted to please. Over time, I stopped trying because I didn't want the pain of my own lack of ability to hit me in the face... one. more. time. 
 After awhile, this began to carry over into my view of the Christian life. I knew I didn't read the Bible as much as I should, pray as well as others, feel as close to God as the "model believer" ought to, and I felt like I was more fake than authentic. Because I played the believing game and tried to force faith... but I lost. So I gave up. But little did I know that God didn't give up on me that quickly. 
 Grace began to teach me a new way to look at life. And, to this day, it's continuing to revolutionize how I live each God-given day. I'm starting to understand that, when it comes to matters of the heart, belief is a risk you take. Love is a risk you take. Because the Son of God was hurt for you...because He believed in you!

You who can't see beyond your own inability to get this trust thing right...

You who think you're never good enough to love and be loved authentically...

You who fear that all your strivings are in vain...

That all your sins are too great to be forgiven by a holy God...

That you'll never be able to move past these failures of yours and that you're forever defined by the mistakes you've made...

You who have accepted your wounds as un-healable...


You are the broken ones that He went willingly to the cross for so that you could experience forgiveness and grace abundant. You are the very people He set the Gospel in motion to save. Because nothing is ever wasted in the kingdom of God. And your pain is never the end of the story...unless you tell yourself that it is. The serpent lie of "God isn't enough" has ruined stories and souls since the beginning of time. And our only true failing is when we believe that. 
 Over the summer I have been reading a book that has changed so much for me in regards to the concept of Grace and how living in it opens up the heart to so much hopefulness in spite of continual shortcomings and failures. In her book, Extravagant Grace, author Barbara Duguid writes to all broken ones:

"If you are in Christ you are cherished...wherever you have sinned and continue to sin, He has obeyed in your place. That means that you are free to struggle and fail; you are free to grow slowly; you are free at times to not grow at all; you are free to cast yourself on the mercy of God for a lifetime. Repeated failure does not mean that you are unsaved or that God is tired of you and disappointed. It does mean that He has called you to a difficult struggle and that He will hold on to you in all of your standing and falling and bring you safely home. You have great reason to hope."

 Because the thing's not up to you, dear hurting hearts! It's not up to me either. Our Savior has done all that was necessary to fulfill the perfection we owed God but couldn't make good on. His one death, burial, and resurrection changed the trajectory of all human history so that mankind could have eternal hope in the face of their own failure. And this is why only once in time has a perfect life been laid down for the imperfect...God's Son Jesus did that for us broken ones. 
 As a result of this, God says to us that it's okay to not be okay. It's okay to hurt. It's okay to risk on love. It's okay to fail to get it right...because we're human and we fail all the time. God gets all this and yet loves us deeply anyway. Once you realize that His approval of you isn't dependent on how much you do, how often you do it, how well you do it, or even if you do it...then you can take heart even though you fall. 
 God gives grace to fail...and grace to get up again. Sometimes its easy to think that grace is only there for us when we are fulfilling all God wants us to and, when we fail, that grace somehow goes away. We think that we need to get beyond our sins in order for God to love us more. We think we need to start succeeding and stop failing. 
 But what if we started to see that God won't always give us the victory over our sins as we desire. He may give us grace to overcome them, but He may not. And He may leave us to struggle with our failures so that we come to depend on Him more. But either way He chooses, grace is provided. 
 In short, because the God-Man Himself was strong, we are free to be weak; because He won for us, we are free to lose; because He was Someone, we are free to be no one; because He was extraordinary, we are free to be ordinary; because He has succeeded for us, we are free to fail. And fail big. 
 Once we recognize the simple fact that we can't sustain our good intentions, no matter how hard we try...once we realize that sin will be a constant influencer in our lives until we finally reach our eternal home...once we grasp that we will never be "good enough" but that Jesus stepped in to be all these things on our behalf, it somehow becomes a little easier to breathe freely. To thank more frequently. To notice miracles and blessings previously ignored because we were running ourselves silly trying too hard. 
 It becomes a little easier to face ourselves and live with ourselves because "ourselves" are being re-made and this isn't all there is. Whatever you are beating yourself up about today in your journey through life...your inability to love well, your repeatedly failed attempts at consistent time with God, your lack of prayer, your addiction that keeps haunting you, your fears that keep speaking un-truths in your ears...whatever is keeping you from seeing through to God...know this: God is offering you grace, and He loves you...even though you fail. 
 All your tears, your broken places, your empty soul-spaces...they aren't the end or the defining point of your story. Because God is more. And it's okay that you don't have it all together...because He does...and that's what we need to trust in.